Dirty Dishes


Sarah stared at the cookies on the plate in front of her.  Still warm and gooey; too hot, really, to enjoy fully.  If she tried to eat one now it would refuse to hold its shape long enough to reach her mouth, and if she hurried, it would surely singe her tongue.  Adding anticipation to the long list of things she was feelings today, she sighed and returned to the kitchen to confront the mountain of dishes awaiting her in the sink.  As she scrubbed, Sarah let her mind wander…wander back in time to the kitchen of her childhood; to the place she longed to be.

It was big, that kitchen, big and bright with a window over the deep tub sink that looked out at the neighbor’s house and a door at one end that lead to the backyard.  It held a massive oak table at which she sat each night to do her homework while her mother prepared soup or stew, or roast or whatever was to be their supper.  If you looked closely at that table, you could still make out the imprint of vocabulary sentences and math problems of so long ago.  She wondered, for a moment, who had that table now and hoped there was a little girl somewhere pressing hard on it still, trying to get her handwriting just so.

Sarah looked around her own kitchen, disappointed to see the dirty pots on the stove that still needed her attention.  “Why is it that I’m always left with such a mess?” she thought, all at once frustrated with herself and irritated with her mother.  When her mother cooked, there never seemed to be a mountain of dirty dishes at the end of it all.  Was it because she was too young to notice?  Too young to care?  Perhaps.  That’s what Sarah wanted right now… to be too young to care.  She wanted her mother to care for her, to tell her what to do.  To take away her worries with a plate of fresh baked cookies.  But her mother wasn’t there.  Her mother wasn’t anywhere anymore.  And Sarah only had herself to bake those cookies.

Angry now, Sarah attacked the pots with vigor, scrubbing hard as if the crusted remnants inside them were to blame.  Where was her mother now that she needed her most?  Why hadn’t she prepared her for this, for taking care of herself?  How was it that she always had all the answers, always knew just what to do?  It wasn’t fair, Sarah thought.  And then she heard it.  A whisper inside her head in the voice she longed to hear.  But it wasn’t saying what she wanted to hear, what she wanted it to say.  Instead it whispered, “Aah, my dear Sarah…life isn’t fair.”  And Sarah stopped scrubbing and put down her rag and pushed back her hair with her still wet hands and sobbed.  She sobbed long and hard; deep sobs of heartache and regret that shook her body and emptied it of the pain she had been holding onto so tightly, afraid to let go of the last bits she had of her mother.  And when it was done, when her breath returned to her and her eyes were swollen but dry, she went back to the tiny table in the corner of her kitchen and sat down with the cookies.  They smelled sweetly of chocolate and love and goodness and she ate one of those cookies that she had made for herself, from her mother’s recipe, and knew that it would be enough.

© Kelly Rainey and http://www.500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.  Artwork by Garrett J Cook.

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